Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring Cillian Murphy.
Directed by Michael Lander
Written by Michael Lander and Ryan Roy
Every morning Emma wakes up and cooks breakfast–a plate on top to keep the meal warm; a note for John, with love. At 8:15 sharp, Emma changes and John gets dressed, smiling at the note over breakfast. The day continues along its set course. This is the only time in Peacock that their routine goes off smoothly. The rest of the movie is John’s struggle to bring the routine back. When a freak train accident puts a picture of Emma on the front page of Peacock’s newspaper, it’s the first time anyone in town learns of her existence. It’s the first time that John’s eggs are runny, the toast a slice of bread.
Seeing John happy once, from within his routine, is all it takes to be left in knots by what happens next. John has dissociative identity disorder. In a line towards the end of the movie, he mentions he met Emma for the first time after his mother’s death, two years ago. Peacock deals with the psychology of John and Emma sharing the same body, and where their personalities mesh and split. Is Emma a part of John that wants to become more active in the community? A reflection of John’s abusive mother? A coping mechanism, friend, or antagonist?
At the outset both personalities are kept strictly separate. John rides a bike. Emma drives a car. This separation extends to memory, where Emma needs to have information John learns repeated to her, and vice versa.
Emma starts staying longer, cutting into John’s schedule without his agreement. Previously confined to the space of their property, initial nerves are gotten past to reciprocate others’ offers to spend time with her, to John’s terror. After clothing gets taken away as a means to tell John and Emma apart, the strength of the film falls on the deep physicality of Cillian Murphy’s performances. It is because of the work he puts into establishing John and Emma individually that when he acts as Emma, pretending to be John, it’s not a trick reveal but a noticeable difference in mannerism. The film doesn’t have to spell out who’s who but does extend room for debate moving towards the conclusion.
Peacock’s script never lets up and the fear that consumes both John and Emma in the beginning is heart-breaking. Between the threat of recognition and invasive neighbors toppling over each other to voice their “concern,” any small victory (Emma convincing a group of visitors to leave) doesn’t last (they leave to confront John at his work). There’s no relief.
The questions this film raises are numerous but one of the more hefty ones is the role of so-called social niceties. Should people be pushed into accepting help from others or is that presumptuous? When does this pushing become cruel? John’s neighbors are a mixed bag. Some, like a cop, and a woman who lives across the street, have always offered help. Others, like a gaggle of self-serving politicians (never seen that characterization before) want to use the train accident for their campaign and are willing to dispense with any manipulation. While there’s a difference in intention the result is the same. Unused to attention, Peacock captures how a kind gesture can be received as predatory. John’s boss doesn’t adhere to social niceties. He’s ready to fire John when his punctuality becomes inconsistent but that’s what John wishes for more than anything—a return to normalcy, not special treatment.
Openly acknowledging Hitchcock’s Psycho as an inspiration, any time John or Emma enters the upstairs corridor, the door to John’s mother’s bedroom at the end glowers ominously. Both John and Norman Bates were shaped by traumatic childhoods but John isn’t a threat to others. Psycho bows to the trope of the mentally ill as violent. Peacock almost evades it, with a lucky recovery from, though not erasure of, a transgression.
Verdict: Buried Treasure
As Cillian Murphy transcends a supporting cast of Ellen Page, Susan Sarandon, and Keith Carradine, it’s easy to get worked up watching Peacock because of the stake you forge in John and Emma finding happiness.
Check back tomorrow for Cillian Murphy’s performance as a soldier in a sci-fi horror short.